a binding of various journal entries on the power of generational knowledge, healing, and coping

Vethea Cerna Cole

When attempting to write delicate words on emergency, all I have been able to think about
instead is what it means to emerge into, alongside what it means to merge together as one (after
being apart, especially). The concept of emergence has felt dreamlike during the pandemic, a
period where grief, anxiety, and longing ebb and flow into one another without warning. This
slow, seeping sense of urgency has led me to fixate on not only the things I miss the most, but
also the things I ache/hope/long for the future to embody. I think of generations before me and
the beds of medicine they planted; I water their ability to reimagine the ways we should hold one
another, and what has been burned down in order to transform into new. I seek to honor
collective hope and rebirth.

On a day where a chronic flare up had me bedridden and weepy, my mom sent me a text as a
fragment of evidence.

baby make sure to shower today, it’s very important
today, the water is a full healer
today, the water is spiritual…

A few months ago, I stuck a cheaply made mirror to a wall on the inside of my shower because I
could. I found the small frame while on a walk one afternoon and placed it intuitively, carelessly,
without much thought.
Some days,
when the air is gentle,
I gaze in ritual of gratitude
drink my own skin, glistening and steaming and
I bathe in childlike curiosity and
Other days, I do not wipe away any of the fog. I allow myself to remain hidden,
crafting a cloud of safety or
shame or

I feel grounded by the thought that my ancestors never looked into mirrors the way we do.
I envision the ocean gently cupping our homeland in her cerulean palms, sighing with each
ripple, and think about how they did not know what a mirror was. I am reminded that, at one
point, my ancestors only ever saw themselves reflected in bodies of water while







My ancestors saw themselves reflected on faces that belonged to those they held dear. Collective
breath, collective pain, collective curling of the lips.

This way, they recognized truth in one another
like the sun spots framing mine and my cousin’s eyes
marrying the distance between us, serving as proof of my grandmother.
I am reminded of the healing found in honoring fluidity,
in embodying what it means to submerge in gratitude, depth, grief, and joy.
I dream of cradling cheek bones by the pacific.

These days, I most often see myself reflected above masked mouths at the grocery store. Batting
lashes has become a nauseating act of intimacy. Teeth hidden, I squint a little harder as an

To stand before you, mirror you, and be mirrored back is a language I realize I may have taken
for granted. Each day, I look forward to laughing
in one another’s essence
in sacred reflection once more.

Vethea Cerna Cole is an ARC Spring 2021 Poetry and the Senses fellow. This poem was written while on fellowship.